No Offense

Hey you!

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been away from blogging for awhile now, focusing on some other priorities. After Abigail is born and I’ve settled into my new life (and new careers in both life coaching and birth education), I plan to get back into regular blogging mode! Until then, I will continue posting updates on my life and things I am particularly interested in writing about, when I have time. 🙂

So first, life update!

Since my last post, I graduated from the Christian Coach Institute as a Professional Christian Life Coach. I am not actively seeking clients at the moment, because of the imminent birth of my daughter, but at the same time I’m certainly not going to be turning anybody away who’s seeking coaching. My plans for my coaching business right now are to begin building it up and finding clients sometime in early 2018. After I’ve coached for a few months, I plan to complete my certification, which adds a credential to my name and gives me more marketing opportunities.

I also was just certified as a Hypnobabies Childbirth Hypnosis Instructor, which means I can now officially teach Hypnobabies classes. It was a lot of work, and I am so happy to have achieved this accomplishment. Just as with life coaching, I plan to begin offering classes in my community in early 2018. I am very excited about that, because natural birth with hypnosis is something I am super passionate about!

Cody is doing well, and we are both growing a lot through this late toddler stage. Although tantrums, whining, and crankiness are a normal part of our lives at this point, it’s also a time full of fun, laughter, silliness, and new discoveries. His personality is developing more and more, and he’s still a very sweet, affectionate, and intelligent boy.

Abigail is also growing well in my belly. I’ve gained a lot of weight (which is a good thing of course!), and she’s an active baby. She also looks beautiful and perfect, based on our last (and likely final) ultrasound. While we still have approximately 8 weeks to go until she’s likely ready to come out, we are pretty much done with our preparations for her arrival. All that’s left to do is wait, rest, stay healthy, and keep practicing my hypnosis techniques for our beautiful birthing!

Our pets are doing well, all healthy and happy (except for Marley’s usual neurosis of course). Our house is coming along with some final projects we want to get done before Abigail’s birth, after which we plan to pretty much leave everything alone for a good long while. Houses are expensive to improve, did you know? =J

That’s pretty much the gist on my life at the moment. The next focus really is bringing baby into the world now, and I’m looking forward to this next stage very much.

And now, onto something else I wanted to talk about. Briefly, though, because this is already kind of long. 😉

As any parent knows well, people love to judge. Family members and strangers, and sometimes even friends, can all be quick to tell you what you are doing wrong as a parent. It’s something that I already knew to expect when I became a parent, and truthfully hasn’t bothered me much so far.

When Cody was a baby, there were less things to judge about, perhaps. Yes, I got comments about our choices of co-sleeping and extended nursing, and some about vaccinations, “helicopter parenting,” and so on. There were complaints about him crying occasionally, but most people understand that babies cry, so that wasn’t too bad. For the most part, the baby years weren’t a time when I felt very judged as a parent, and certainly not in any ways that bothered me.

But these toddler years, they are something else. Cody is a two year old, going on three, and he acts like it. There are tantrums, public outbursts, and generally embarrassing behavior frequently. Most of the time, I handle it pretty well, because I know that it’s pointless and unnecessary to feel embarrassed or get angry at him about what I know to be normal behavior for his stage of development. I know that as a parent, my job is not to control my child, but to nurture, protect, and guide him. That includes discipline, of course. It does not include punishment, expecting him to act like an adult, or reacting to his behavior in ways that are not logical or productive.

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with my parenting choices. Whether it has to do with his behavior in public, my disciplinary style, how I choose to protect my child, what I choose to feed him (or allow him to eat), or even things like the length of his hair, there are opinions on all sides about it. People might choose to share those opinions by staring, glaring, commenting to others, complaining to me, giving me advice, or telling me what they feel I’m doing wrong. All of those things have the potential to be offensive, especially when I’m already in a stressful situation with my screaming toddler.

But I learned something recently about this. It is my choice, whether or not I will be offended. Realizing that, to me, makes all the difference.

The truth of the matter is, kids will be kids. Some people do not understand that, or they forget. Sometimes, people are having a bad day or are in a bad mood, and they might not treat frazzled parents with as much grace as they should. Other times, people just have strong opinions about parenting (or hair length). It’s really not about me or my child–it’s about them. It’s not my problem, it’s theirs. Because you know what? My job is to be the best parent I can be to my child. My responsibility is not to please my relatives or friends, let alone random strangers; it’s to do what I believe is best as a parent. As long as I’m not being abusive, I don’t have to defend or explain my choices to anybody but God, myself, and my spouse.

With that mindset, it’s much easier to choose to not be offended. When others judge me, my child, or my parenting, I don’t have to take it personally. I don’t have to let it bother me. I can remind myself why I’m doing what I’m doing, and feel at peace with that. I will never please everybody, and that’s okay. Because I am a good mother, imperfect as we all are. I am doing my very best, and I know that God will do the rest. And even though my son is only 2 ½, I am already proud of who he is. Most of all, he knows that he is loved. To me, that says everything.

Wrapping Up and Moving Forward

It’s been another busy month since my last post! I hope to resume writing more useful posts for you again soon, but right now seems to be a season for other priorities. Still, I like to keep you updated on what’s going on with me, and I hope you find it interesting!

In early April, my family took a trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, so I could attend a five day training for Hypnobabies Instructors. It was a grueling week between the travel and the demands of the training program. But we did it, and now I can check something very big off of my goals list! After I finish my certification requirements, I will be able to launch my own business teaching Hypnobabies childbirth classes. It’s an exciting opportunity for me to help families experience better births, share my passion with others, and contribute financially to my family.

Today, I will also graduate from the other career training program I’ve been busy with, for becoming a Professional Life Coach. After graduating, I will need to complete certification requirements for this as well. I am very eager to get it all done, and I am excited about my future business plans! I have a vision to combine my birth education classes, my life coaching services, my blogging experience, my passion for writing, and my love for teaching. All together, I plan to create one new business, with the goal of helping women through the transition into new and new-again motherhood. I can’t wait to see what it becomes!

As both of my trainings have or are soon ending, it is now time to shift my focus to finishing all of the requirements for certification in both areas. It’s important for me to finish both before the birth of my baby, because I know that after Abigail comes I’m going to need to focus completely on her and our family for at least a few months. That means I have about three months to get it all done, while still leaving enough time to breath and prepare for my birth and baby’s arrival.

It’s been a rough few weeks, unfortunately, as I’ve been trying to move forward. We chose to adopt a cat from the animal shelter after we returned from New Mexico, which was something we’d been planning to do soon after we bought our house. We brought home a sweet, though fairly shy, adult female kitty who we named Luna. Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that both Cody and I were reacting allergically to her. It was only unclear how big of a problem it would be.

At first, Cody began suffering from a bad cough that kept him (and us) up at night, and left him feeling uncomfortable all day. He also had some nasal congestion. After about a week, nothing had improved, and we began to seriously consider rehoming Luna.

Then, confusing matters, Cody was hit by a stomach bug which lasted about 12 hours. As soon as he recovered, I was hit with it. At that point, Cody’s cough was mostly gone, but his congestion worsened, and he was absolutely miserable for several days. After I recovered from the stomach bug, I came down with the cough. For about five nights in a row, I could barely sleep at night.

Now almost two weeks later, I’ve been sleeping well again, but my cough remains. I have diagnosed myself with bronchitis. Cody is still suffering from some nasal congestion, but is doing much better. I am hoping I will recover by the end of this week, as well. All of that to say, we still don’t know how much of our respiratory troubles have to do with allergies to the cat, not to mention extreme amounts of pollen in our area currently, versus how much of it is just whatever virus seems to be going around. Either way, it has been no fun! But for the time being, we have hope we will be able to keep Luna.

Through all of this, Abigail has continued to grow healthy and strong. She’s a very active baby, just like Cody was, and seems completely unfazed by everything going on outside of her cozy bubble. Thank God for that! I am now 24 weeks pregnant, just over 5 months.

So that’s where I am right now, and where I’m headed for the next few months.
Thanks for reading!

What I’ve Been Into The Last Two Months

Hey there! I’ve been MIA on my blog the past couple of months because of a combination of extreme busy-ness and a difficult pregnancy. I don’t know when I will be resuming my usual posting schedule, but I wanted to send out a life update since so much has happened. This is super duper long, because there has been a lot going on. :O

Since January, I’ve been busy with my life coach training, which I am now over halfway through. It’s coming along really well and I’m confident and excited to finish my training and become certified. If anybody reading this is interested in a few complimentary life coaching sessions, I would love to practice my skills while helping you move forward in life! So hit me up. 🙂

Anyway, the training course takes up about 5-6 hours of my time per week, so it’s been a big deal in my life. On the other hand, my Hypnobabies Instructor training hasn’t been taking up any of my time, since I completed almost all of the prerequisites before January. However, this coming week will be a big change because we are flying to New Mexico for the intensive almost-week-long in-person training portion. It’s going to be Cody’s first flight, and the first time I have to be away from him for about 9 hours a day while Cory takes care of him all day. It’s going to be a very interesting switch!

My pregnancy is going well in terms of baby’s health and my health. In terms of my comfort, it has not been a walk in the park. In fact, this pregnancy has changed my and Cory’s minds about any future pregnancies. While we still want to have more children through adoption, we are done with pregnancy. As a birth educator (in training), I deeply value and appreciate the wonder of pregnancy; it’s an amazing gift to be able to bring life into the world, and a truly miraculous process. That being said, my experience has not been very enjoyable. In fact, I find pregnancy to be months and months of discomfort, often to the point of being debilitating and limiting my ability to enjoy life. I certainly envy the many women who enjoy being pregnant, and I always thought I would be one of them! For me, being pregnant is something I will never regret, but it’s something I prefer not to repeat again. Especially now that we know we are having a girl! One boy and one girl biologically… Could it be any more perfect? I’m feeling good about that decision to pursue adoption from here on out.

As far as our baby girl’s development goes, she seems to be growing and thriving beautifully. At almost 19 weeks, I have a very noticeable baby bump and both Cory and I can feel her kicking and moving in my belly. She’s very active several times each day, and likes to give me little reminders that she’s in there. In just about 5 months, we’ll be meeting our precious daughter, Abigail MarlyAnne Westropp. We can’t wait!

Cody has been adjusting really well to the idea of being a big brother to a baby sister. He knows her name, and talks about her sometimes. In this way and so many others, he’s such a smart and sweet boy! He talks a ton now, understands concepts that surprise me, and shows random moments of sweetness very often. He’s also a two-year-old… and with that comes a BIG attitude, a seemingly unlimited capacity for whining and tantrums, a glaring lack of patience, and at times a thirst for mischief. He’s certainly a handful, just as he always has been, but this stage has also been a lot of fun and it’s been so incredible to watch him growing into a full-blown person with his own ideas, will, and complex emotions.

Because of my pregnancy, nursing became first uncomfortable and then excruciating. In early February, I had to finally wean Cody because nursing was unbearable. He’s accepted this change remarkably well, and was very understanding about how we couldn’t nurse because it hurt mommy. I’m so sad that we had to end our nursing relationship earlier than I had planned, and that we won’t be able to experience tandem nursing. It has been such a special part of our relationship and an intense way of bonding, and I do feel the loss now that he’s physically independent from me. Our relationship has changed, and I see him less as a baby and more as a kid. It’s sad as a mom, but it’s also wonderful to see him growing and becoming more independent.

In other news, we spent the last two months finding, buying, and moving into our very own house! It has been a complicated and stressful process, but everything went incredibly smoothly in the purchase process. Not only has God blessed us with the unexpected ability to buy a house in the first place, something which we hadn’t anticipated being able to do for many years, but he kept his hand of blessing on the entire process. We even closed escrow five days early! Truly, the most stressful part of the process has been the moving itself, as well as the many projects we had to complete before moving in and the many more we have to work on now that we’re here. Making the house what we want it to be is both fun and exhausting!

Unfortunately, in the chaos of move-day, we experienced a tragedy that has been heavy on our hearts for the past week. In our old home, our guinea pigs’ cage was upstairs, putting two baby gates between them and the dogs. In our new home, we had not installed the baby gates on the stairs yet and after a very long day of moving, we left the house to go back and get more leftover items from the old house. All it took was a moment of forgetting to close a door. When we got home, we didn’t immediately see the dogs. We realized they were upstairs. We realized the pigs were up there too, and their door wasn’t closed. We ran up, but it was too late. We found our dog Sky standing in their cage, and our three precious guinea pigs were dead.

Replaying these horrendous moments has been my brain’s way of processing. I remember the thoughts racing through my mind. My shout of, “the pigs!” as soon as I realized what was going on and we raced upstairs. My knowledge before I even walked in the room of what I was about to find. My husband’s cries of horror and his emotional meltdown, which I now believe was a panic attack. My shock and panic and I tried to process and stay calm for Cody’s sake and the baby’s sake. Trying to stop my body from shaking all over. Holding the pigs one at a time, calling them by name, crying softly and telling them how sorry I was. Placing them side by side in their carrier for the night and shutting their door tightly. Thinking, “if only we hadn’t forgotten.” My childish prayer as I lay in bed that we would wake up and it would be the same day and we could do it over. The anxiety that overwhelmed me and kept me up half the night, a terrible fear that something worse could happen, particularly that I could lose Cory or my children.

The next day, we chose a spot in our backyard to lay our piggies to rest. One by one, we wrapped them in a cloth, held them one last time, and laid them in the ground. We said goodbye to each, and gave them one last serving of veggies, their very favorite thing in the whole world. We placed a stone over their grave, a spot we can visit when we miss them. In the past week, we’ve spent a lot of time grieving. It comes over me randomly, but less and less with each day. And I know some people won’t understand this. They’re guinea pigs, not dogs, and certainly not people. But they were precious to us. They were so full of personality. In honor of that, I want to take a moment to write about each one, and what we will miss about them all.

Penelope, our Penny. She was the oldest, but only by a couple of months. She was the one we had the longest. We adopted her has a tiny baby, just over a year ago, along with our piggy Charlotte who passed away from a long illness in December. After Char passed, we adopted Amelia and Clementine, and Pen became the alpha. She was a beautiful piggy with a smooth brown and white coat. She was the one who purred and popcorned the most. (Guinea pigs sometimes purr when you pet them, and “popcorn,” or spasmodically hop around, when they are happy or excited). I have a small amount of comfort from the thought that Penny and Charlotte are together again; they were a bonded pair, so that means a lot.

Amelia, our skunk baby. She was black and white with long, unruly fur. She even had a tuft on her lower back that stood up and reminded me of a skunk’s tail. We adopted her as a tiny baby as well, just over three months ago. She was only four months old. Even at her age, she was already nearly the size of the other two, who were fully grown. Amelia was going to be huge, the biggest piggy by far. Between her size and her spunk, I suspect she might have given Penny a run for her money as alpha. She never really liked to be held, but she was the most outgoing of all three. She had a hilarious habit of burying herself in the hay pile where she could hide, sleep, and of course eat.

Clementine, my Clem. Of course Cory loved her too, very much, but Clem was special to me. Penny was the one Cory picked out to begin with, and Amelia stole his heart when we adopted her; but Clem was the one I thought of as mine, after Charlotte passed. She was mostly orange, with some white, and one very small patch of black in the middle of her back. She had one brown ear, and one pink. She was the sweetest and mellowest pig I’ve ever seen. She was the easiest to pick up and would sit calmly and contentedly in your lap. We adopted her three months ago, and she was about to turn one year old this month.

I will miss their excited “wheeking” when they heard us preparing their veggies every night. I will miss seeing them popcorn around their cage when they were really happy about something. I will miss their soft fur and their quiet purrs when we pet them–they each had their special spot they loved to be pet the most. I will miss walking by their cage and seeing them sprawled out, each in their favorite spots, relaxing and enjoying the pig-life. I will miss watching them devour their veggies each night with such enthusiasm. I will even miss laughing at the incredible mess they were capable of making out of their cage in such little time–pigs indeed.

Our loss has been painful and hard to accept, but it’s more than that. Because we were their caregivers, we were the ones who were supposed to keep them safe. We failed them, and they paid with their lives. They died in fear and pain. I can only hope it was fast. We will always have to live with that regret, knowing that such a small and simple mistake cost everything from these creatures we loved. We will have to go on living with our two dogs who we know were only following instinct, but who nonetheless took something precious from us in a way that we can only see as savage. (Marley and Sky were the ones who killed them; Lila was in her crate.) It’s a depressing and horrible situation all around, and as you may tell from the length of this writing, it’s been heavy for me. The only thing we can do now is to never repeat this mistake. As long as we have dogs, we will never again own guinea pigs, or any small animals who could be killed by our dogs. It was irresponsible of us to do in the first place, no matter how careful we were. It only took one moment and one mistake. This is something I will always regret.

So, sorry to leave this post on such a sad ending, but I really needed to write about this and share my pain.

Even though this has been very tough, life is good otherwise. God has blessed us in so many ways. I am thankful. Although losing pets is nothing like losing humans we love, it has been a sharp reminder that life can end very suddenly and without warning. We must treasure it, every moment we can. I certainly have much to treasure today.


In loving memory of Penelope, Clementine, and Amelia.

What I’m Into in January

This month, my pregnancy has become even more real to me, with full-blown nausea and fatigue that often accompany the first trimester. We’ve also chosen a midwife, and will have our first appointment with her tonight. At 7 weeks pregnant, our baby is now the size of a blueberry and has begun developing important organs like lungs, a brain, and a stomach. If we’re lucky, we may be able to hear baby’s heartbeat with a fetal doppler at our appointment tonight, although it still may be too early.

At the end of this month I will be beginning my training as a life coach. Just before I became pregnant with Cody I began this same program, but felt that I had to put it on hold when I started to feel the symptoms of pregnancy. I also felt that I would not be able to work as a life coach while balancing being a stay-at-home-mom. Well, now that I’ve done it for two years, I feel confident that I can balance work and motherhood, and I’m ready to try again. The timing is definitely funny, with me being pregnant again, but this time I am determined to power through. After all, this part only lasts a couple of months, if my pregnancy with Cody is any indication. The second trimester will hopefully be much more comfortable for me! But anyway, my training as a CPCLC or Certified Professional Christian Life Coach, will involve a weekly 3-hour webinar session, as well as outside reading, buddy assignments, and other homework. It’s going to keep me busy, but I’m ready for the challenge!

In the meantime, my training as a Hypnobabies Instructor is coming along well. I’ve almost completed all of the pre-requisites that need to be finished before the in-person training in New Mexico, which takes place in April. So fortunately, I won’t have to balance Hypnobabies training and Life Coach training at the same time (for the most part).

Our family is doing well, including our dogs and guinea pigs. Marley is starting to show his age more with noticeable hearing loss and a more frequent need to go outside, but otherwise still acts like his same self, including bouts of puppy-like energy. Amelia and Clementine have adjusted to their new home smoothly and our three little pigs are a happy herd.

Cody’s antics this month include talking more and more, an obsession with mac and cheese and cheese puffs, getting his second molars in on one side, and beginning to identify a few letters and numbers. He also said “I love you,” to me today of his own volition, which is a moment I will always remember. As we’ve explained our expectancy of a second baby to him, he has expressed different emotions from despair to excitement to curiosity, and he has also told us his preference for brother, sister, or neither–it changes frequently. Overall, I think he will be ready to be a big brother when the time comes, although it will certainly be an adjustment for him.

That’s what the picture looks like for us in January… and here’s what I’m into this month.

What I’m Watching:

This month is bringing back a bunch of my favorite shows, so I’m pretty darn excited!

Bones – One of my all-time favorite shows has begun it’s final season. I’m going to enjoy every single episode of watching my favorite characters solve crimes with nothing but a few bone fragments or a puddle of dissolved remains.

The Bachelor – Ah, my guilty pleasure; this show along with its sisters the Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise. I can’t get enough of the manipulated and dramaticized journeys of these individuals to find love. After all, being on this show is the last hope for so many of them, or so they would have you believe. Why? Because what better way to find lasting romance than on reality TV! Right? 😉 Seriously though, I love it. I’m excited to watch Nick’s journey this season! Personally, I’ve always been a fan of his and never understood why he was seen as a “villain.” Whatevs.

Series of Unfortunate Events – Yes, you read that right. It’s now a TV show, premiering this month! As one of my all-time favorite book series from my childhood, I don’t think I could be more excited about this. The casting of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny looks perfect, and to top it off, they’ve got Neil Patrick Harris (from How I Met Your Mother, another favorite of mine) playing Count Olaf. Yeeeee!!!

What I’m Reading:

Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices) by Cassandra Clare
I’m still working on this one. It’s a thick book, and I only have stolen time to read it during Cody’s naps, after doing more important things like writing this blog post. 😉 So far, I’m really enjoying it! It’s especially cool to see the glimpses of my favorite characters from this universe, from previous books. Plus, the storyline in this book is interesting and of course, the forbidden romance that has yet to be confessed is compelling.

The One Year Hearing His Voice Devotional: 365 Days of Intimate Communication with God by Chris Tiegreen
This book was a gift from the Christian Coach Institute where I will be training soon, and I’ve been enjoying the short, yet meaningful daily readings as part of my morning routine.

What I’m Cooking:

Ramen – Using a recipe I modified from Munchery, I’ve been enjoying this delicious noodle soup with chicken and veggies. It’s soothing to my sensitive preggo stomach, and it’s pretty nutritious too. This is one of those meals that I have to force myself to stop eating when I’m full. I plan to share the recipe soon!

Baked Potatoes – Okay, this is pretty basic. But there is almost nothing I’ve been enjoying more during this nauseous time than a good, baked potato. I especially love using red or yukon gold potatoes. Butter and salt on top, of course. Yummmmmm.

Steak – Before this pregnancy, I rarely indulged in a steak. I thought it was too expensive and a less healthy choice compared to chicken. But now, with a higher daily protein and iron goal, I’ve been incorporating steak into my menu once a week. I’ve been surprised to find that some of the very affordable cuts are still delicious, and not hard to cook. It’s giving me new skills in the kitchen, so that’s a bonus. So far, a simple salt and pepper rub and oven broiling method have worked well for me. Mmmm, meat!

Recipe of the Month – Chicken Dumpling Stew

This recipe is for one of the most taste-bud-pleasing, comforting, and easy recipes in my cook book. It uses a lot of “cheat” ingredients, which is one reason it’s so easy. It also uses a slow cooker, which usually means a low-involvement dinner that basically cooks itself. What’s not to love?

 

Servings: about 6

Prep Time: 5 mins

Cook Time: 5 hrs

 

Ingredients:

4 skinless boneless chicken thighs

2 tbsp salted butter

1 can cream of mushroom soup (condensed, 10.5 oz)

1 can cream of chicken soup (condensed, 10.5 oz)

1/2 carton chicken broth (16 oz)

1 bag frozen mixed veggies (16 oz)

1 bag frozen diced onions (12 oz)

Seasoned salt

Pepper

Dry parsley (optional)

1 can biscuits

 

Instructions:

Place chicken thighs in slow cooker along with everything but the biscuits: butter, cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, chicken broth, mixed veggies, onions, salt, pepper, and parsley. Stir to mix somewhat – but it doesn’t have to be perfectly combined at this point. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.

chicken-dumpling-stew-in-pot

Tear biscuits into small pieces and drop into stew. Continue to cook on high for 1 hour, or until chicken reaches internal temperature of 165 and biscuits are cooked through. Use two forks to tear chicken into smaller pieces. Serve and enjoy!

chicken-dumpling-stew-bowl

Notes:

The measurements for the ingredients are based on what was available at my grocery store. If you have a bag of mixed veggies or onions or canned ingredients that are slightly bigger or smaller, don’t worry about it, just toss it in. The stew will still be delicious!

Chicken thighs sometimes aren’t available as boneless and skinless. In that case, it will take a little bit more work to separate the skin and bones from the meat. You can carefully cut off the skin first, and then cut chunks of meat away from the bone, and toss them into the slow cooker just like that. Either way, don’t worry about cutting them up before cooking, because it’s super easy to shred those pieces after they’re cooked. Just probe around with two forks and tear up any big chunks you find, before serving.

Almost all of these ingredients can be purchased organic, or you can prepare them yourself if you prefer. Mixed veggies can be prepared with fresh produce by mixing peas, corn, chopped baby green beans, and thin chopped carrots. You can dice fresh onions. Even cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom soup, and chicken broth can be made from scratch, if you prefer. And of course, buttermilk biscuits can be made by hand as well. I like to use shortcuts when possible, but you can make this recipe as “from scratch” as you’d like! Recipes for all of those things can be found easily online.

The {Bedtime} Struggle Is Real

bedtime-struggle

I’ve mentioned many times that my family is a co-sleeping one. We love sharing our bed with our precious son, and couldn’t imagine sleeping in a separate room from him. Those snuggles, special memories, and the closeness and security we all feel being together are priceless. There are moments we’ve been able to enjoy that would never have happened if we weren’t co-sleepers, like hearing Cody’s first laugh, in his sleep in the middle of the night when he was two months old. Being pat gently on the face and greeted, “hi mama,” first thing in the morning is another thing I treasure.

Plus, when you’re breastfeeding on-demand with a high-need baby, co-sleeping is really the only way to go. Rolling over to nurse and falling back asleep is so much better than trudging down the hall, nursing in a chair, re-settling the baby in the crib, and then dragging yourself back to bed. Co-sleeping has allowed me to be an active nighttime parent without sacrificing sleep any more than necessary. And even though my sleep has been interrupted every night for more than the past two years, it has still been adequate and I have never felt sleep-deprived. It may not be for everyone, but co-sleeping is definitely for us!

Yet one thing I have sometimes felt misled about when it comes to co-sleeping is the idea that doing so will lessen bedtime battles and bedtime anxiety. The idea is that since your child knows you will be with them throughout the night, they don’t fight bedtime as much as other kids who are dreading the long period of separation. Yet for us, bedtime has been an increasingly challenging routine.

It started with Cody occasionally having a hard time falling asleep, or seeming “wired” at bedtime. Then it became a common situation to spend up to an hour trying to put him to sleep. As attachment parents, we don’t believe in sleep training, and we have always helped Cody go to sleep by nursing, rocking, and snuggling in bed. But we came to a point where none of that was working. We’d already been using white noise, blackout curtains, and a consistent bedtime routine. We started eliminating any screen time within a couple of hours of bedtime. We tried putting him to bed earlier, or later, or at a more consistent time. Nothing seemed to help! Finally, we tried giving him a very small dose of melatonin on nights when he was taking over 30 minutes to fall asleep. When that became almost every night for about two weeks, we finally decided that something had to change. We were not comfortable relying on drugs to get him to sleep!

I did some research, weeded through the sleep-training sales pitches, and finally came across an article written by a fellow attachment parent and co-sleeper, describing exactly my problem. The solution was simple, but kind of sucked: making your bedtime the same as your child’s. At first I was resistant. Cory and I have really enjoyed our hour or two of alone time to relax together at night. We also often used some of that time to catch up on chores. Losing it was not an appealing idea. Yet as I read this article, I realized the truth of the matter, which was that many nights we weren’t getting that time anymore anyway. At this point, we were spending an hour or more putting Cody to bed, and then pushing our bedtime out further and further just to have 45 minutes or less of time to ourselves. It was inefficient, stressful, and pointless.

We knew that we had two realistic choices. We could sleep train our toddler, going against our instincts as parents and undermining the strong attachment and sense of security we have built with Cody since his birth. Or, we could make another sacrifice on this parenting journey, and start going to sleep with him to put an end to his bedtime anxiety.

Attachment parenting is many things, but easy and convenient are not the words I would use. And you know what? That’s okay. Parenting shouldn’t be easy or convenient. Parenting should be about sacrifice. It’s about giving everything you have and are to raise your children to be the best they can be. It’s not always fun, and it’s not always comfortable. But boy, is it worth it. That love… it’s like nothing else.

So we followed the way of love, and gave up our alone time to help Cody have a better bedtime. It has been so much easier already. The bonus is that even though we don’t have that alone time, we do get more sleep, which I desperately need now that I’m pregnant. Plus, Cory can get up earlier in the morning and have time to himself for working on his personal projects, which works out really well considering the morning is his most productive time of day. I still get my alone time every day during his nap, which has been really good for a long time! I think it’s interesting that he has no issues going down for naps (except on the days when he randomly decides to skip it), but bedtime has been so difficult. This kid likes to keep things interesting!

Anyway, Cory and I still have time alone on the weekends during Cody’s naps, and we allow ourselves TV time in the evening even with Cody around. He’s going to be a very “cultured” child, you could say. 😉 There may be a time when we decide that “adult” TV isn’t appropriate for him, but for now, we’re okay with him being exposed to the stuff we watch. We tend to be fairly protective over what images and words and themes go into our minds anyway. But that’s a topic for another post.

As far as bedtime goes, it has been stress-free since we made the change. He still doesn’t go to sleep very quickly yet, but at least now we’re using that time to fall asleep ourselves, rather than laying awake and waiting for him to fall asleep. And I can say one thing for sure; I have been enjoying the extra sleep for myself.

We’re Expecting!

pregnancy-announcement

Happy New Year, readers!

I hope you and your family have an excellent year full of joy, growth, and life at its fullest.

This year is going to be an exciting one for my family, because we’re expecting our second baby in August!

At just six weeks pregnant, it’s amazing to know that our little baby already has a heart that’s beating and the beginnings of arms, legs, and facial features. How unbelievable is the miracle of life? God’s creative power never ceases to amaze me. We can’t wait to welcome our second babe into the world. <3

My Favorite Toys {For Kids Under Three}

favorite-toys

Since Christmas, Cody has officially reached the point where I can say that he does not need anymore toys for a long, long while. He has a house full of toys, many of which he plays with; but he also has a lot of toys that he rarely touches, or only plays with for a few seconds every once in a while. Some of his toys are ones that I think he will grow to enjoy more as he gets older, and some of them are probably ready to be retired and saved for the next baby. But overall, there are a few toys that he loves most of all, and those are the ones I’m going to share with you today.

Toys can be a big source of clutter in families’ homes, so it’s important to make sure that the ones you have are ones that are worth the space they take up. All kids are different, so some of the toys that Cody loves might be completely uninteresting to your children, and vice versa. But if I had to choose one type of toy as the best for almost any kid, I would say toys that encourage imaginative play are the best. Electronic and musical toys, those that encourage physical activity, and creative activities like painting and coloring are all fun, too. Yet I have found that most of them don’t get used as much as imaginative play toys. In Cody’s case, he especially likes toys that let him pretend and mimic activities that he sees me doing.

Here are my top five favorite kids’ toys, for kids under three!

1. Play kitchen

Cody has a play kitchen similar to this, which he plays with every day. Personally, I think Step 2 makes pretty good toys compared to some other popular brands, and the kitchen is a good example. It’s well-built and has cute features that are fun for kids. It comes with a reasonable amount of accessories, too.

2. Play cleaning sets

If I had to pick Cody’s favorite toy, I would pick this one. He loves to run around the house with these cleaning toys, especially the broom. He also really likes the little spray bottle, which actually works but I turned it to “off”. 😉 He enjoys pretending to clean and, ironically, making a mess by scattering these toys all around the house. Melissa and Doug is definitely my favorite toy brand; they make toys that use less plastic, are high quality, and encourage imagination.

3. Animals

These toy animal figurines are another favorite of Cody’s. He likes to play pretend with them, practice his animal sounds, and show us how he can identify them by name. He takes them in the bath sometimes, too. This set is cute and sturdy, and safe for the smallest baby hands. Cody also likes stuffed animals, which were a favorite toy of mine as a child.

4. Cars

Like many boys (and girls!), Cody loves cars. He likes to hold them, drive them around, stack them up, and anything else you could think of. These ones are fun and cute because they make noises and are chunky enough for little hands without being too big. There are many different cars in this line of products, like a trash truck, fire engine, truck and trailer, construction trucks, trains, a plane, a bus… you name it! The fun part is that all of the toy vehicles in this line work and interact with the Go! Go! Smart Wheels tracks, which are expandable.

5. Knick knacks

As many parents will attest, kids often seem more interested in playing with things that aren’t toys. So while I have already shared four of Cody’s most beloved toys, I also have to admit that a lot of his playtime is spent on the box of knick knacks we have assembled for him. This box includes things like small prizes from kids’ play places, cereal box toys, old credit cards, old sunglasses, cleaned plastic food containers, lids to random bottles, and even some rocks. He likes to dump out and examine these items, and use them for different imaginative purposes. While most of these items have just been collected for free around our house, we also have added things like these stacking cups and these plastic chain rings.

Those are the top 5 toys I would choose to keep if I had to get rid of everything else. Lucky for Cody, that’s not the case! 😉 But if you’re interested in limiting the number of toys in your home, or trying to find new toys that will hold your little ones’ interest, then these might be a good place to start.

Happy play time!

What I’m Into in December

december-char

December has been a month of great joy and sadness for my family. I love the holiday season, and enjoy spending special times with my extended family. We are happy to have a low-stress Christmas planned this year, with only one short trip to Orange County and the rest of our time spent locally. We also decided to go super simple on gifts this year; we bought a few toys for Cody, a few gifts for ourselves as a family, and we are giving all of our loved ones homemade cookies and eggnog. It’s going to be a long week of baking, but there was no stress about financing our gifting this year, so it’s worth it! We also have an artificial tree, and we decided not to buy any extra decorations this year. Those things have helped us to enjoy Christmas without worrying about money, which is how it should be anyway. We’re able to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ!

We are also excited about our decision to try for another baby, which we were originally planning to postpone until April. Starting in January, I will be back in training as a Christian Life Coach, in the same program I started just before becoming pregnant with Cody. I left the program because I felt too sick and tired from being pregnant and I felt that it was time to focus on the next chapter in my life, parenthood. But now, I feel ready and excited to jump back in, and figure out how to balance parenting and working as a work-at-home mom. I also will be in training to become a Hypnobabies Instructor in April, a dream I have had since using Hypnobabies with Cody’s birth. Because of these career goals, I felt that postponing another pregnancy until after my trainings were finished was best. But after a lot of soul-searching, Cory and I have decided that there is rarely a perfect time to have a baby. But we are ready for baby #2, and we don’t want to wait! That decision has brought us a lot of joy this month, and we’re eager to see our family grow.

Yet this month has also included a lot of stress and sadness over our guinea pig, Charlotte. She had been sick for two months and was deteriorating rapidly over the past few weeks. After losing about a third of her body weight and not responding to three different rounds of antibiotics, along with antihistamines and hand-feeding, we knew that she was not going to recover. We chose to end her suffering and let her go peacefully to sleep. It was heartbreaking, and still is. Some people might think it’s silly to be so upset over a guinea pig, but these creatures have so much personality! She loved to be pet gently and have her back scratched, and would purr and chirp to us. She would wheek for veggies every night, and popcorn around her cage when she was excited about fresh bedding or hay. We adopted her as a 6 week old baby, and she only lived to be 11 months old. We did everything we could to help her get well, but it wasn’t enough, and that hurts my heart.

Because we saw it coming, we decided to adopt a third guinea pig to keep Charlotte’s bonded partner, Penelope, company. Guinea pigs can go through a depression that can be dangerous for their health when they are grieving the loss of a partner. Our new pig, Amelia, will hopefully help Penny have an easier adjustment period. Now that Charlotte is gone, we plan to adopt another pig because we like having a herd of three. It’s been helping me cope with Charlotte’s loss to enjoy baby Amelia, and look for another girl to add to our home. We will always miss Charlotte, but I have peace now knowing that she’s not suffering anymore, and that Penelope and Amelia will continue to live a happy life with us.

December has also brought a golden period for our puppy Lila, who had troublesome behavioral problems for many months since we adopted her back in April. Finally, at 10 months old, she has become a generally well-behaved member of our pack. It’s taken a lot of stress off of us to see that she is doing so well now.

Of course, that stress was replaced by Cody, who has really come into his terrible twos over the past couple of weeks. His tantrums, whining, sensitivity, uncooperativeness, and occasional aggression have been challenging us on a whole new level. We are learning as we go when it comes to parenting and discipline, as this is definitely testing my knowledge and ideals in these areas. As with many (if not all) parents, and especially moms, I am learning firsthand what it means to feel “mommy guilt.” I have to remind myself frequently that I’m not messing everything up or somehow ruining my child, that in fact I am doing a really good job. It’s hard to feel that way sometimes when you have a toddler who acts like a total brat–but then again, all toddlers are this way! It’s a stage of development that they all go through, and it’s not my job to control him or make him act how I want him to. It’s my job to control myself and act with integrity and respect and kindness and love, no matter what my child does. That’s one of the most important lessons I have learned so far as a parent!

Lastly, I had to let go of a short-lived dream I had to make a career out of blogging. After over a month of working hard to gain subscribers, I made absolutely no progress, and decided to go back to blogging for fun. It was disappointing, but I also feel a weight off now that I’ve let it go. I want writing to be free and fun, instead of feeling like I have to jump through hoops to run a blog business.

So that’s it! That’s my month. Here’s what I’m into right now:

What I’m Watching:

Colony – A sci-fi drama about a family struggling to live in an authoritarian state in LA, after an invasion by what I suspect are aliens. There’s a lot of mystery and a dark, thought-provoking plotline. It has one season currently available on Netflix.

Fuller House – A family sitcom created as a continuation of the 90’s show, Full House. It’s light, cute, kid-friendly comedy. It’s a Netflix original, with two seasons currently available.

Designated Survivor – A political thriller about a terrorist attack that wipes out the entire US government and leaves the presidency to the designated survivor, a member of the previous president’s cabinet. The new president, Kirkman, struggles to navigate the political waters without compromising his morals, and must sort through conspiracy theories about the origin of the attack. Episodes are released weekly on Hulu.

This Is Us – A family drama about adult triplets with various struggles, and their family of origin. I love the time jumps, plot twists, and compelling drama. This show addresses some very thought-provoking issues and can be very moving. The pilot is the best pilot episode I have ever seen, hands down. Episodes are released weekly on Hulu.

 

What I’m Reading:

Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices) by Cassandra Clare

This is a book I have wanted to read for a long time, in the same universe as the Mortal Instruments series and the lesser known Infernal Devices series. This is book one of the Dark Artifices series, which will be a trilogy. I love Clare’s books and I’m excited to jump into this one. I just got it from Amazon, but have not yet had time to start reading.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

I read this book as part of my Hypnobabies Instructor education, and it was very enlightening and reignited my passion for childbirth. It’s an amazing book and I would highly recommend it to anybody in the birth world, as well as anyone who is planning to have babies in the near future.

 

What I’m Cooking: (recipes coming soon!)

Chicken Dumpling Stew – oh my yum! I can’t wait to post this recipe. It’s such a good comfort food.

Mashed Potatoes – a holiday staple. My recipe involves bacon grease. Enough said.

Butter Chicken – a very tasty way to cook chicken breasts. And it’s easy!

Brown Sugar Meatloaf – although meatloaf has a bad reputation for some people, the recipe I use is seriously delectable. If I could marry this meatloaf, I probably would. 😛

What the Fruit?

what-the-fruit

What does it mean to be fruitful and abundant? According to the Bible, it means that we display the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It means that our lives reflect and prove God’s goodness.

All Christians are called to be fruitful and abundant. This is not only a gift from God, but a design for his glory. Our fruitfulness comes naturally when we seek God and allow him to change us.

God desires for us to live in complete surrender to him. That means we let him in, trust him, and follow his guidance through the Holy Spirit. When we do that, we are transformed and our lives are transformed. We become people who produce good things (fruit). The Holy Spirit produces these godly traits in us. Our lives are abundant and we are able to feed others with the bounty that God has created for us. In simple terms, we become better, our lives become better, and we can help others better. That is the meaning of the Fruit of the Spirit.

In John 15:5-8, Jesus said:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

The Bible describes the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. It says: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

From these verses we can understand that the fruit of the Spirit is what we develop when we remain in deep relationship with God. Our abundance and our fruitfulness can then point others to God. Each of the character traits listed here has an important role in what it means to be a true follower of Christ, rather than just a “Christian” living outside of relationship with Jesus.

Love

Love is the reason for everything, the greatest purpose in life. God created us and the entire world so we could love him. When we failed to do that, he sent his son, Jesus, to sacrifice himself so that we could be reconnected with God and all of his perfection. Since the beginning of time, God has desperately loved us and wanted to be loved back by us.

In Matthew 22:37-40, we are told that love is our greatest calling. “Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.’”

Joy

Joy is not only a gift to us, but a gift to others. Joy is contagious. And I am convinced that we can never find true joy until we learn to delight ourselves in God, above all else. When we do that, we will also find that he gives us the desires of our hearts. God is a loving God who gives us great gifts! Yet contentment and gratitude with what we have now, and an intimate relationship with God, are keys to finding joy that can never be taken from us no matter what the circumstances. This attitude of joy is not one we can develop in our human power, but one that God creates in us through his power.

Peace

I have learned the hard way that God isn’t a genie. But he is a loving Father, who longs to care for us and bless us with great gifts, especially when we are living close to him. It give me great peace to know that God cares so deeply for me, and that he can be trusted to care for my needs. And even though it can be difficult for my human heart to accept it when God doesn’t grant my requests, ultimately I have peace knowing that he has my best interest at heart. It brings me peace to know that God will enact his plan for my life, not my plan for my life.

Patience

One of my biggest struggles in life, time and time again, has been patience. I become easily discouraged when I feel that things aren’t moving fast enough in my life. But God continues to remind me that I can accept where I am each day knowing that his timing is perfect, and he has me exactly where I am for a reason. He reminds me that he has good things in store for me, and that I have good things to enjoy today, too. That gives me patience to live in the moment.

Kindness and Goodness

I don’t know about you, but I need the Holy Spirit to be the one guiding my actions each and every day. On my own, I am human–often selfish, unkind, and weak. Yet in Christ I am perfect and whole and overwhelmingly good in God’s eyes, because when he looks at me, he sees Jesus. Knowing that just makes me want to live up to the person that God has shown me I truly am. The Spirit helps me to be this person. Through God, we have supernatural power to be good and kind in a world that is often anything but.

Faithfulness

Faith is a decision to trust. With God, it also means accepting that he is greater, and that his ways and his thoughts are far above ours as humans. The fact of the matter is that I will never fully understand God, at least in this lifetime. But I can choose to trust that he is good, that he loves me, and that ultimately, he has saved my soul for eternity. I can choose faith even when I don’t understand and I can’t see what he’s doing. God meets us where our faith is. If we trust him to save our souls, he will. If we trust him to provide for us, he will. If he trust him to heal us, he will. If we trust him to give us marriage and children, he will. He may not always work in the way or timeframe that we think he should, but he is faithful. One of the most precious ways that God helps us through his Holy Spirit is by giving us the gift of faith. Faith enables us to believe him in the face of struggles and disappointment. Faith is the root of our hope.

Gentleness and Self-Control

These traits require humility and trust in God. To develop them, we must learn to let go. When we let go of the things that we can’t control, we can focus on the things we can control; our own thoughts and actions. God can empower us to rise above what other people do or say, and reflect his mercy and strength instead.

 

The fruits of the Spirit and an abundant life are ways that God desires for us to be identified as his followers to the world. These should be the things that make us different, that make us into salt and light for the world. By these things, we can begin to fulfill our mission in this life, which God has given us. We are here to lead others into relationship with God, the only one who can heal the brokenness and satisfy the hearts of all humanity. We are here to build his Kingdom of love.

 

This is a refreshed repost of a series I did around three years ago, about the fruit of the Spirit. For the original series, click here. This will take you to a list of all 9 posts from the series. =]